I was born and raised in Rio and I’ve seen lots of foreigners wandering around Copacabana and Ipanema beaches; there are many signs you’re a tourist in Rio de Janeiro. Here are some tips to blend in with the locals a bit better.
Wear Havaianas, the original Brazilian flip-flops.
Actually, this is one of the first things you should buy once you arrive in Rio. Leave the sneakers and Crocs in your suitcase.
Always use swim-wear.
As obvious as it may sound, we freak out at this weird habit of going to the beach wearing jeans. Even if you’re planning to just see the beach and take pictures, dress accordingly. Once you get there and see the blue ocean, you will regret not wearing your swimsuit.
Don’t bring towels.
Use cangas — a light cotton sarong — even if you rent a chair, since we usually put them on it. Just think about how many people use and sweat on the same chair over a summer day.
If you’re staying near, go by bike.
You can rent the orange ones of Itaú and return it at one of the many stations around the beach. On Sundays, one of the traffic lanes gets closed for cars and is taken over by bikes, skates, dogs, and tanned people.
Arrive late at the beach.
So you can stay until the sunset (in summer it’s around 8pm) without getting tired or sunburned.
Ask for “chorinho”, when you buy matte, our local iced tea, in a gallon.
And drink it while you eat Biscoito Globo.
Use a lot of sunblock, especially in the summer.
Sunburns can spoil your trip for at least a few days. And remember to hydrate yourself by drinking a lot of water and coconut water.
Don’t ever leave your stuff unattended.
If you’re alone, ask someone (in a group, if possible) if you can leave your things with them. It’s not enough to ask them just to keep their eyes on it since they won’t chase down someone who decided to take it. Bring with you only what’s necessary: no jewelry, expensive watches, your passport, and large amounts of money.
Don’t get drunk.
Despite what you might imagine, we don’t drink caipirinhas so often, especially at the beach. It is more likely that you’ll see local people having a beer instead. Feel free to have one because it tastes good, but don’t drink too many or all your efforts of blending in will go down the tube.
Applaud the sunset.
And take pictures…we still do.
If you don’t feel comfortable about doing any of this, just don’t do it. This is supposed to be fun, that’s all! Be happy and enjoy Rio. It’s a wonderful place to be.
* By me, but originally published in Matador Network.